Wednesday, January 01, 2020

2019 - #ECUS

So – I guess the big thing from this year is that I started teaching again.  Being the jazz guitar instructor is kind of fulfilling a long-standing ambition of mine, and I’m enjoying it as much as I’d ever imagined. 

I did manage to carry out my plan for a marathon recording where I cleared all my back-catalog of tunes that hadn’t gotten their due.  Should get the tetralogy of records released shortly, once everything is mixed.  The fellas – Keith, Andy, Jerrold and Henry – did some amazing work. 

We lost Bob K. and Ralph – at least managed to help send Ralph off properly with re-working a Dreamers demo into a hymn of hope and love. 

Adopted hawks as my spirit animal. 

Listening – Gary Burton.  Julian Lage.  Lots of Hard Bop.  Dio Sabbath.  More Charlie Byrd.  More opera – Strauss in particular, going beyond Salome and Elektra.  And Verdi – especially conducted by Abbado. 

Reading – the Gary Burton autobiography, a lot of Spenser novels to end the year and start the new one.

Gigs – I started saying yes to almost everything, what with wanting to focus on my guitar playing more than composing this year.  Busiest year in a long, long time.  Still feel lousy about my playing, but what’s new?

Concerts – only 2, but both of note.  UFO at the St. George on Halloween night with Vinny and Marshall.  Their 50th anniversary tour.  A UFO sighting on Staten Island!  My 16 year-old self was thrilled.  And John Scofield and Dave Holland at the Blue Note with Lance.  Better gtr/bass duo than the Jim Hall/Red Mitchell record. 

Things have been falling into place pretty well, hence the hashtag.  “Everything’s Coming Up Stinky”.  #ECUS.  Here’s looking forward to the new year continuing the trend.

Picture of the year from Chrispy’s 1st birthday party.  Who you calling a loser?

Friday, December 28, 2018


Not a lot to recount, feels like it was a mostly quiet year.  Managed to get 2 records released – “All Systems Are Incomplete” and “Short Stories, Vol. 1” – both of which I’m pretty proud of.  Feel like I took some steps forward compositionally.

Spent more time listening to tone poems this year – Strauss, Liszt.  Added some Berlioz.  Lots of Delius.  Got into a Weather Report groove, along with some funky 70’s Herbie Hancock.  Of course Korngold was the biggest obsession.  His orchestral and chamber works along with movie scores and operas.  He’s really become probably top 3 for me along with Sibelius and Mahler.  Other movie scores – Honegger, Vaughan Williams, Walton, Rosza, Steiner.  Ending the year with some Puccini. 

Reading was a lot of Aeneas stuff.  And more Sherlock stuff.  The Cambridge music books and BBC Guides are constant companions.  The Asimov robot novels and closing the year out. 

Gigs were few, but year ended with some good things with the Foot Stomperz!  Been playing a bunch of piano to try to get to an "adequate struggle" level.  Since most of the year was tied up in composition, I feel like I want to spend the coming year playing more guitar.  This may be the year I finally “clear the decks” and do a marathon recording of all the jazz tunes I have hanging around. 

This was a year where there was a significant loss, 

but also a significant addition.

Holding this very new human, all you want to do is let him know "I'll do my best to keep you safe.  Always."  There's a tribal connection, some deeply sensed familial bond that you hope gets understood in a primal way.  Those connections are everything.  I couldn't imagine a better way to cap off the year.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Year End 2017 - The Year of Sherlock

So, one good thing about 2017 is that it saw the beginning of my fascination with all things Sherlockian.  It started when I was looking for a new show, now that "Castle" is off the air, and I remembered that I always enjoyed "Elementary" when I caught it.  That led me to the Conan Doyle originals.  Then on to some pastiches (some great, some ok, some awful).  Then it was BBC's "Sherlock".  I'm hooked.  Can't get enough.  221B all the way!

Let's do a quick recap before the serious stuff.


As mentioned, lots of Sherlock Holmes (and Mycroft, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)

A bunch of Ursula LeGuin, probably my favorite author at the moment

Pete Way’s autobiography – yikes!

As I dug through the stack of back issues of Analog and Asimov's that I have, one story stuck out.

"All That Robot ..." by Rich Larson.  This story is everything that I love about sci-fi and short stories in particular.  In a few paragraphs the author creates and immerses you in a fantastic yet believable world.  To create something so novel, and so complete in such a short space - remarkable.  It really stayed with me.  I don't know why that pdf version is there, but if anyone comes across this and has interest in it, do yourself a favor and check it out. 


Again, as mentioned, "Elementary" and "Sherlock".  Love them both so much, different as they are.

The Last Jedi

Ragnarok/Wonder Woman/Logan


Vaughan Williams - So I more fully came around on Vaughan Williams.  I'm kind of convinced that I'm not a big Leonard Slatkin fan, however.  I had a set of symphonies with him conducting, and gradually supplemented it with another complete set by different conductors who I found more convincing in pretty much every instance.  He coaxes a wonderful sound from the orchestra, but there's something missing in terms of direction that doesn't convey the narrative of the music as it should.

Elgar - this may be because of my Holmes obsession, but decided to dig a little more deeply because it seemed to fit with the whole Victorian era my head was swimming in.  Again, had Slatkin conducting the symphonies, but got a set by Haitink and found them much more compelling.

William Walton - second string quartet, some film music, in addition to the more well known orchestral works.

George Benson - dug hard on this, the old organ group stuff.  Nobody better.

Herb Ellis - as my tastes mellow, I find I'm more appreciative of his "swing" era sensibilities.

Charlie Byrd - continued to make amends for having dissed him all those years.  Got a bunch fo really excellent later recordings.

Kenny Burrell - by himself and with Jimmy Smith – started me on my organ trio kick.  KB was always one of my favorites, and I really missed him.  Replaced some of my favs that I had never gotten on CD and was really reminded how important he is to me.

Oliver Nelson – "Straight Ahead" is an unknown masterpiece, almost as good as "Blues and the Abstract Truth" (and much better than its sequel).

T-Bone Walker – "Too Lazy to Work, Too Nervous to Steal" - this song is my spirit animal!

As for other stuff - work was terrible but finished 2 big projects (web site and music lab upgrade).

Recorded and released "Kitsch and Sync". 

Wrote “All Systems Are Incomplete” (again, in super short time frame)– will be on next record.  

Wrote a bunch of blues, hopefully for organ trio record of my own.

Thought it was a light year, gig-wise, but looking through the calendar it was actually pretty full.  Autumn/Winter was light, but overall better than I thought.  First gig of the year was at Marie’s and last gig of the year was at Marie’s, so nice bookending.  Been practicing a bunch, so feel pretty good about my playing.

Took some time to explore the Hudson Valley.  Always with a mind towards escaping.

Now for the serious stuff - the boys.

We lost 2 of our cats this year, Dinner and Lunch (their sister Breakfast has to handle all cat business in the house alone now).  These 2 geniuses were so connected throughout their lives, it's a wonder they could bear to be apart the 7 months that separated their leaving us.  The gift that these cats were to us cannot be overstated.  I loved them both so much, and I know I was loved by them.  Having Dinner herd me into bed, or Bunchie do brush-face or give me the "look of Bunch" - the brudders were my special buddies, and I can feel good knowing that I really appreciated them while they were with us. 

Dinner - Din-dins - Rin-din-din - Fluffy-Wan Kenobi - Fluffy Fluffin Fluffer

Lunch - Bunchie - Bun-Chi

Brudders - The Geniuses

 Trying not to put too much pressure on the little girl, but she's stepping up big time.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year End 2016

First up, let me add my voice to the choir.  Fuck you, 2016.  

David Bowie

Glenn Frey
Maurice White
Keith Emerson AND Greg Lake
George Michael
Bob Cranshaw
Paul Bley
Claus Ogerman
Rudy Van Gelder
Toots Thielemans

George Martin
Jeremy Steig

Bernie Worrell
Scotty Moore
Muhammad Ali
Ron Glass
Gene Wilder
Debbie Reynolds
and of course Carrie Fisher

This is nowhere near exhaustive, but somehow indicative of what this year took from us.  It's not just "oh how sad, this famous person died".  These were people who provided more than art or entertainment, they said important things, they opened doors, showed possibilities, proved individuality could thrive.  And in far too many cases, left us too soon.  So, yeah, fuck you 2016. 

Now, about my year.  

I've always felt like I was a pretty stable person emotionally.  Not too many highs or lows.  Always pretty even keel.  Of course, every once in a while "Red Victor" would show up, but not often.  And every so often I'll be reduced to a blubbering mess, but again, not often.  It seems, however, that I'm becoming much more manic.  I could blame work (and largely do).  I'm usually so spent, and have had the life sucked out of me so thoroughly that I've little left to give to things that matter to me.  Sure, that's my story for why I can barely manage things most nights.  But there are rare bursts - of energy, of creativity, of positivity - that result in me actually getting some work done.  Like when I wrote a string quartet in 4 days over Memorial Day Weekend (ok, so I had the basic theme to the Lullaby movement before that, but it was severely re-harmonized during that 4 day stretch, so I'm sticking with my "I wrote it in 4 days" version).  Or when I re-orchestrated a bunch of pieces around July 4.  Seems like I did all my best work over about an eight day stretch.  The rest of the year feels like a bust.  I'd like to find a way to get back to a more even keel, level out the highs and lows so that I can be somewhat productive all the time.  We'll see how that goes. 

My one real accomplishment was "Merely Clever", the new recording.  The good thing is it feels like an improvement over previous efforts.  But I've just been kind of stuck since I finished it.  Did the usual round of gigs - Exit 12, Monks' Monks, some cool pickup jazz gigs.  Did a little recording with the Monks.  Scored a bargain on a guitar.

$260 shipped, with a case.  Thought it would be a "beater" type guitar, but used it on a couple of jazz gigs and it turns out it's a real keeper.  Long scale (25.5) semi, which is a cool variation.  Even though the coming year marks 40 years with my Ibanez Strat and I want to use that as much as possible, I have a feeling this one will find it's way to a bunch of gigs as well.

Listening?  I did do a lot of symphony listening, as I had hoped.  Built up quite a library in the process.  Dvorak, Berwald, Liszt, Borodin, Glazunov.  I'm starting to come around on Vaughan Williams, and actually dug more Holst, in contradiction to what I wrote at the end of last year.  Also discovered Hal McKusick - my new 6th favorite alto player (Bird, Ornette, Desmond, Hodges, Keith Gurland, Hal, Cannonball - probably Phil Woods).  Dug into more Blakey and Cannonball as my tastes continue to coalesce around very mainstream, swinging types of things.  Sam Jones and Louis Hayes - maybe my favorite rhythm section.  The Gerry Mulligan Concert Band was also a revelation this year (as I was digging through more and more Mulligan).  Also finally found the good Charlie Byrd.  I feel bad I ever had harsh things to say about him.  Hearing his earlier recordings I understood that he struggled with tone as years went by through no fault of his own, but dealing with drummers and equipment.  I would assume the same for certain harmonic tendencies - his early recordings a really great.  At least I finally came around.  

Reading?  I feel like I was always reading something, but somehow nothing jumps out.  Star Trek Legacies series started out really good, ended up just ok.  Read the first volume of "Women of Wonder" which I really enjoyed.  Second volume is staring at me.  I'll get to it, I promise.  I feel like trying to get through my "Columbia History of the World" again.  Of course, I still haven't made it all the way through "Brahms and the Principal of Developing Variation".  I think this is the third time I've started it.  Made it farther this time.  Maybe I can push through it.  

Watching?  Last season of Castle, which I'll do my best to forget.  Rogue One.  Rush's "Time Stand Still" documentary left me in tears.

We did get to spend a fair amount of time out doors.  Found some nice parks nearby in NJ.  Had some great walks on SI, though, especially in Blue Heron Park.  

Nice vacation in New Paltz, where we experienced 3 seasons in 3 days.

Of course, the "kids" are all great. 

I'm just glad to be rid of this year.  It feels hard to look forward to what's ahead, but you know, these folks (and not always just the characters they portrayed) can offer words of wisdom.

What do they give us?  


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Brain atrophy

I haven't thought a decent thought in a very long time.  I'm afraid it's from disuse.  I thought doing some writing may wake the grey matter up.  I like to blame my job, or allergies, or simply being tired, but it's probably more about being lazy, and needing to break out of bad habits.  One step forward, several back.  I'll see if this helps.

So, without an interesting or original thought to write about, I'll just mention that I'm listening to Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony.  In my reading on symphonies, the 4th had some interesting features - clever key relationships in the first movement, along with a differentiation between thematic second subject and harmonic second subject - ie. second theme is in one key, but proper key for second subject is only arrived at later.  Plus the 2nd and 3rd movements are beautiful and fun in turn.  Once I listen a few times, maybe I'll have something original to add.

Also, of late I've decided I need to swing more.  And not just in my playing.  I figure, if I don't swing, my playing won't swing.  Let's see how that all goes.

Hopefully I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Year End

Well, well, well.  Another year come and gone.  I just went back and re-read last year's YE post, and one thing I wanted to happen actually happened - I lost 25 lbs.  Cut out (for the most part) bread, potatoes, cheese and booze.  Brought the booze back, but in more limited quantities.  Would like to drop another 15, been stuck where I am for a few months.  Maybe once the weather gets nice.

The other big accomplishment was "Noisome Fardels", my 'classical' record.  A not-bad learning experience.  Exit 12 had a pretty good year, got a new (and awesome) drummer.  Did nice jazz wedding with Marc (guitar duo), and a couple of PE 17 gigs - Project 5 + Exit 12.  Usual Monk's stuff, some trio.

Great vacation in Ithaca, especially Buttermilk Falls.

Donna rescuing 5 kittens and the mom (Bruce, T.O.M., Nook, Poppy and Baby Kitty)

All my stuff is on YouTube now, thanks to CD Baby.  That was a nice surprise.

Watching - added Modern Family to the rotation.  Of course, Star Wars - The Force Awakens.

Reading - Dune (loved it! Thought it would take all summer to read, but got through it in maybe 2 weeks, which isn't a long time considering it's 800-900 pages).  The Left Hand of Darkness (loved it so much I read it twice in a row.  Very high on my all-time list).  A couple of Richard Castle books.  The usual assortment of comic books.  Re-read Neuromancer.   A bunch of music books - "Cambridge Guide to..." books are like taking a seminar.  Went through a couple, got a couple more lined up.

Listening - just started a really serious study of the symphony and it's evolution.  Some early standouts that are newish to me - Schumann #2, Honegger (the lot of 'em).  Lots of soundtrack music - Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Gallactica, Bernard Hermann.  The sci-fi soundtracks led me back to Holst.  Love "The Planets".  His other stuff leaves me a little cold (as does Vaughan Williams, go figure).

Jazz - DeJohnette "Tin Can Alley", Brookmeyer "Desiderata", Shelly Manne "The Three and The Two" with Giuffre.  Went back to Wes and Phil Woods/Gene Quill.  And Max Roach/Clifford Brown.  My listening tastes in jazz are coalescing in a somewhat mainstream vein, and I think I'm ok with that.  

Live - GC, Jr. leading the octet.  Rush R40 at MSG.

Had a fun day-after day-after Christmas going through my mother's photos.  Got to see pictures of my family going back more generations that I would have thought.

For the New Year?  Well, I've been practicing a bit.  Trying to get a new trio repertoire together.  Let my playing reflect my tastes - Getz, Bickert, Desmond - more mainstream and less "mainstream modernist".  Try to be melodic while exploring texture, but always swing.  I'd like next 'record' to be a symphony and those pieces for guitar and orchestra that have been hanging around for years waiting to be orchestrated.  Plus the Scherzo from "Trees Falling..." when I can find time that works for Keith to record it.  I've still got a book of jazz tunes that need to be recorded - some with a live band and some with "electronic" orchestrations/elaborations.  Maybe some octet charts?    

Have a big graduation to look forward to this year.  Work has some interesting projects about to start up.  Not a bad year, if a little quiet on the "big deal" front, wouldn't mind another year like it.  Movin' along, which is about the best you can hope for.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Year End

2014, here and gone.  There was one overriding event that took most of my energy this year, and happily it feels (at the moment, anyway) that it was well worth it.  Let’s take a look back.

Got to enjoy the last 2 concerts from my 50th birthday present – Shostakovich’s 5th with Bartok’s 3rd Piano Concerto, and Mahler’s 3rd.  Sadly, driving into Manhattan has turned into a nightmare, so the thought of going to more concerts is almost repulsive. 

Got to go to the USA Curling finals in PA.  I loved this.  Loved, loved, LOVED it.  Had the best time, but had no idea it would be so cold in the arena.  Great New Paltz vacation.  

“Exit 12” and our alter-ego “Equinox – the Styx Tribute” had a pretty good year.  The “Legends of Rock” concert in Delaware a big highlight, along with some good local gigs, a couple of acoustic turns at “Back to the Beach”, and more Styx at “Bikers for Bini”.  

The Monks had a couple of nice gigs, and did a nice mandolin gig, too.  A couple of gigs with Lance, including his birthday party and the wedding ceremony/cocktail hour.   Did “paid reherasal” gig at Alor to prepare for next 2 records.  Kept reasonably sharp with my jazz playing, improved my piano playing, got a great mandolin (after having a bad experience with the first one I bought), but still haven’t made any progress on violin.  This year…

Of course, the big event for the year was “Shorts and Suites” with Keith Gurland at Symphony Space.  He premiered my “Trees, Falling in Forests (Making Sounds)”.  The effort that went into that was more than pretty much anything I’ve ever done before, but it feels like a success. 

Listening – more Mahler, Sibelius, Shostakovich and Berg (particularly his Violin Concerto).  Added more Samuel Barber of late, which is striking a chord with me.  

Watching - Guardians of the Galaxy, oh YEAH!

Reading – digging my Kindle, I have to admit.  Tons of comic books - including "Leaves on the Wind" and "Clockwork Angels".  Of course, the most important reading from this year is “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series.  Read all 5 books twice.  Absolutely my favorite books of all time. 42.

The coming year?  Who knows.  I want to record those tunes, sooner than later, finances permitting.  Have to get “Trees…” out to the world, see if it opens any doors.  Do another record at home, more on the electronic side of jazz.  Lots of writing that needs to get finished – piano sonatina, orchestral pieces, orchestrate the guitar ‘concerto’. 

It would be good to take better care of myself physically – lose some weight, get the back feeling better.  Hopefully it will be another happy, healthy, productive year.  Who could ask for more?